Configure a custom mini ITX system with a full size videocard
It's often said that big things come in small packages, and to prove it, CyberPowerPC is encouraging consumers to try out its new custom SFF Configurator. This allows customers to choose from what CyberPowerPC claims is a "carefully selected menu of high-end components" to piece together the ultimate mini-ITX gaming machine. And with the back-to-school season not too far off in the future, these space saving systems would fit nicely in a dorm room.
Xi3 may have found a willing partner in the SFF space
There was quite a bit of mystery and intrigue surrounding Xi3 Corporation's Piston PC at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) two years ago, not to mention confusion over whether or not it would become Valve's rumored (at the time) Steam Box. It wasn't mean to be -- Valve has since launched a Steam Machine initiative, but Xi3 hasn't given up on SFF systems. Instead, Xi3 has partnered with Intel to build and sell next-generation "Micro-Mini PCs," which will include Intel's NUC line, the company announced today.
We've seen our share of suitcases over the years, but they're usually packed full of clothes and other essentials for travel. What if your destination is a LAN party in the next town over? If that's where you're traveling, it's not a traditional suitcase you need, but perhaps one that's filled with gaming hardware. Such a thing exists -- CyberPowerPC's Fang Battlebox is now available in a variety of configuration options.
Liquid cooling-obsessed boutique builder thinks inside the small box
Setting up a liquid cooled rig is challenging enough on its own. But liquid cooling a small factor PC? That's taking things to whole new level. In fact, Maingear says its Epic Torq gaming system is the first small form factor PC in the world to feature liquid cooling for both the CPU and GPU. We'll take Maingear's word for it, but either way, the Torq is an intriguing system that can outfitted with some seriously powerful hardware.
"The Fang Mini is no toy, but a fully functional PC," CyberPowerPC says
Boutique system builder CyberPowerPC today stuck out its Fang Mini series of NUC-like PCs. These compact systems measure a scant 4.5 inches by 4.3 inches by 2.4 inches -- small enough to fit in your hand but with enough venom to strike down not only daily computing chores, but also a bit of 3D gaming and 4K video watching, CyberPowerPC says. And unlike the NUC, you can configure a Fang Mini PC with AMD inside.
Intel's attempt at infiltrating the mini PC market with its Next Unit of Computing (NUC) device has been met with some growing pains, one of the first of which is it had a tendency to lock up unless you removed the internal Wi-Fi card. That's long been fixed, though there have been reports of other issues, such as a USB 3.0 bug. A new revision NUC is supposed to squash the USB 3.0 bug, along with a few other issues.
Smaller size systems don't signal the end of overclocking
We still find full tower system sexy as ever, but there's a definite trend right now toward small form factor (SFF) rigs. Valve is partially responsible for the movement as it finds ways to encourage PC gamers to play in the living room via Big Picture Mode and Steam Machines, both of which are proving popular. Wondering what impact this trend will have on overclocking? No doubt trying to overclock in tightly packed systems becomes a bigger challenge due to higher temps, but it's not impossible -- just ask the folks at G.Skill who overclocked a set of Ripjaws SO-DIMM memory to DDR3-2600 speeds.
Zotac, a company that's best known for its line of mini PCs, just fleshed out its Zbox family with a new model. The newly introduced Zbox ID45 comes to town wielding a 3rd Generation Intel Core i3 processor (Ivy Bridge) paired with Nvidia GeForce GT 640 graphics. It's a bit of a blast to the past to see a new system rocking a last generation foundation, though Zotac claims this combination offers plenty of performance while remaing energy efficient.
It doesn't take a monster system to run Microsoft Office or surf the web, hence why we're starting to see so many small form factor (SFF) PCs as of late. One of the newest SFF rigs to emerge is the Asus Eee Box EB1037, which is a mini-desktop system that looks like a router but is a full-fledged PC build around Intel's Bay Trail platform with a Celeron J1900 quad-core processor clocked at 2GHz.
The Steam Machines may not be here yet, but these small form factor PCs may be the next best thing
Ask a civvie what a gaming PC is and they’ll say it's a machine slightly smaller than an HVAC system that breathes fire. That, gentle readers, is no longer the case. Alienware planted the seeds of a revolution with its first X51 by shoehorning a real GPU into a machine the size of a VCR. And in the year-and-change since then, interest in micro-towers has exploded (partly due to the looming Steam Machines, no doubt).
Note: This Article was originally featured in the November 2013 issue of the magazine.